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Only the government can be so predictably scary. I recognize the threat, but those in power (regardless of stripe) are so intent on “protecting” us that they continue to work towards a magic spying technology that will allow them to catch every threat to their power from terrorists to peace activists. The (hopefully) suspended data-mining program created in the name of “homeland security” is only one of the manifestations of the strange mix of Orwellian and Huxlerian dystopia our leaders are trying to create.

The Homeland Security Department scrapped an ambitious anti-terrorism data-mining tool after investigators found it was tested with information about real people without required privacy safeguards. 

The department has spent $42 million since 2003 developing the software tool known as ADVISE, the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement program, at the Lawrence Livermore and Pacific Northwest national laboratories. It was intended for wide use by DHS components, including immigration, customs, border protection, biological defense and its intelligence office.

Pilot tests of the program were quietly suspended in March after Congress’ Government Accountability Office warned that “the ADVISE tool could misidentify or erroneously associate an individual with undesirable activity such as fraud, crime or terrorism.”

Let’s hope that the Department of “Homeland Security” gives up on their Orwellian fantasiees and this program has not simply been pushed under the radar. I thought only Hollywood villains were well-funded yet still incompetent. Shouldn’t there be more outcry at crap like this?



  1. moss says:

    There are outcries every time it’s proposed – usually followed by Congressional liars saying it’s not going to start – or it’s shut down. The same slugs who proposed it a couple of times at the start of our current neocon nightmare always ended back in positions of power (“trust” would be the wrong word).

    I trust these slugs as far as I can throw them uphill, underhanded into a heavy wind.

    Admiral John Poindexter is the best example of this criminal breed – starting back in his venal role in the Iran-Contra Affair – and leading up through NSA blah-blah-blah for Georgie W.

  2. Mister Mustard says:

    Heck of a job, Chertie. Maybe there’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom in this for ya.

    Got to be careful with those taxpayers’ funds, though. $42M here, $42M there, and the next thing you know, we’re talking about some real money.

  3. Wha?? says:

    1,000,000:1 odds says this is going to a “contractor” at no charge, and the information then sold back at 100 x the price.

    I still think these “data mines” are nothing more than an attempt to predict market changes, for those who have access to the information!

    (IMHO)

  4. The Dude says:

    #1 said exactly what I was going to say.

  5. ethanol says:

    How do we get the government to quit doing this? I tell people about these situations all the time. They nod their heads in agreement, how wrong it is, etc. I then tell them I call and write my representatives and ask them if they have ever thought about soing something about it and I get blank stares.

    So how do we motivate the populace to stop putting up with this, as well stated by Smartalix, Orwellian or Huxlerian attempts by the government?

  6. undissembled says:

    That thing is a robot chicken!

  7. Rabble Rouser says:

    They’re planning on mining the data for the ’08 election and doing what they did in ’04. Greg Palast broke the story back in July. Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/3bq2em

    [Please use TinyUrl.com for overly long URLs. – ed.]

  8. grog says:

    china spends billions locking down the entire internet using top shelf equipment and techniques at every network level; their govnt routinely hacks our DOD — and yet, ordinary college kids over there routinely circumvent their nation’s overt attempts at censorship and actual blanket wiretaps

    so, to think that a blanket wiretap and data mining by the DHS is going snag actual terrorists is stupidly naive and clearly shows total ignorance of modern technology

  9. Cinaedh says:

    I just read a short discussion about this topic and it’s not just the government we have to worry about.

    http://tinyurl.com/28qbt2

  10. Li says:

    The thing I find most disturbing about this push to mine data is not how useless it is from a security standpoint, but rather how useful it would be from the standpoint of a tyrant. As Jeff Jonas of IBM noted in his brilliant definition of data mining. . . .

    “Data Mining, noun, 1. Torturing data until it confesses … and if you torture it enough, it will confess to anything.”

    . . . .you can essentially bring anyone under suspicion for anything with this technology. One example; have you ever bought duct tape, rope and condoms? Well, if you did so on a credit card, even months apart, some apparatchik might exclaim “Aha! A rape kit!” and there goes your life down the tubes. Of course, this is just one example, and since bombs can be easily made with household chemicals, you could be disappeared into some hell hole for trying to keep a clean house. Or, perhaps, that bad cold you had could run you into trouble with the DEA as a possible meth cooker. The ways you could ruin the lives of the innocent with this technology are endless, and I get the creepy feeling that is precisely the reason it is being so stridently pushed for by our ‘benevolent’ leaders.

  11. Phillep says:

    I agree, more or less, with the previous posts.

    HOWEVER

    Consider why and how the government has been able to initiate these programs.

    Flipping cowards and nanny staters crying about “There ought to be a law”, “Why didn’t the government protect us?”, “Why did Bush fail in New Orleans?”, “Why was 9-11 allowed to happen?”

    These are the people who support the tyranical laws being passed.

  12. Smartalix says:

    10,

    ” you could be disappeared into some hell hole ”

    I believe the proper term is “oubliette”. Current vernacular = “Guantanamo”

  13. OhForTheLoveOf says:

    #10 – Which is why I tell people to use fake names on those grocery store cards…

    They are generally harmless, but the potential is there for that data to be scoured by the DEA as you mentioned… but worse, if you buy too many steaks, will you be denied health insurance? The possibilities for abuses are too great to run the risk.

  14. Glenn E says:

    >>They’re planning on mining the data for the ‘08 election and doing what >>they did in ‘04.

    Incumbents always get the best toys to play with, come an election. Or their party does. And at taxpayers’ expense. Should the GAO tag this as an resource that said candidate or party is getting without paying for it? Like free plane rides on military jets to campaign for office?

    As for what Data Mining is, by its typical use by our government. I label it as computerized McCarthyism. What seems fairly innocent now, will have a not-so-innocent use in the not-too-distant future.

  15. Greg Allen says:

    We in the “cyber world” must realize that governments are not our friends. I don’t mean just the USA — but governments in nearly every country. The ‘Net is too global and too free for most governments to accept. Corporations aren’t exactly benevolent, either.

    Therefore, we need to have privacy and encryption in every major tool we use.

    But why isn’t there? C’mon Geeks! We need you write the code for this.


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